Fellowship of Punditry

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Cul Heath

Mick Arran

Jeffrey Barbose

Inspector Lohmann

Eric M. Fink

Michael Lane

Rep. Mark B. Cohen

The Fellowship is accepting new members. Inquire within.

The Sages

  • David Weinberger
  • Jon Lebkowsky
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  • Rebecca MacKinnon
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    Distinguished Colleagues

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  • Into the Blogosphere
  • George Orwell

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    Political language -- and with variations this is true of all political parties, from Conservatives to Anarchists -- is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.

    In a time of universal deceit - telling the truth is a revolutionary act.

    If you want a vision of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face - forever.

    But if thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought.

    Sometimes the first duty of intelligent men is the restatement of the obvious.

    Whatever is funny is subversive, every joke is ultimately a custard pie... a dirty joke is a sort of mental rebellion.

    In our age there is no such thing as 'keeping out of politics.' All issues are political issues, and politics itself is a mass of lies, evasions, folly, hatred and schizophrenia.

    All political thinking for years past has been vitiated in the same way. People can foresee the future only when it coincides with their own wishes, and the most grossly obvious facts can be ignored when they are unwelcome.

    At fifty everyone has the face he deserves.

    Most people get a fair amount of fun out of their lives, but on balance life is suffering, and only the very young or the very foolish imagine otherwise.

    John Stuart Mill

    Conservatives are not necessarily stupid, but most stupid people are conservatives.

    The amount of eccentricity in a society has generally been proportional to the amount of genius, mental vigor, and moral courage it contained. That so few now dare to be eccentric marks the chief danger of the time.

    The general tendency of things throughout the world is to render mediocrity the ascendant power among mankind.

    Whatever crushes individuality is despotism, by whatever name it may be called and whether it professes to be enforcing the will of God or the injunctions of men.

    A man who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature and has no chance of being free unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself.

    Mark Twain

    Don't let schooling interfere with your education.

    All generalizations are false, including this one.

    A classic is something that everybody wants to have read and nobody wants to read.

    Get your facts first, then you can distort them as you please.

    Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society.

    The Public is merely a multiplied "me."

    Only kings, presidents, editors, and people with tapeworms have the right to use the editorial "we."

    Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.

    Only one thing is impossible for God: To find any sense in any copyright law on the planet.

    Don't go around saying the world owes you a living. The world owes you nothing. It was here first.

    Winston Churchill

    The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter.

    I like pigs. Dogs look up to us. Cats look down on us. Pigs treat us as equals.

    Don't talk to me about naval tradition. It's nothing but rum, sodomy and the lash.

    Never hold discussions with the monkey when the organ grinder is in the room.

    Criticism may not be agreeable, but it is necessary. It fulfils the same function as pain in the human body. It calls attention to an unhealthy state of things.

    However beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the results.

    In war as in life, it is often necessary when some cherished scheme has failed, to take up the best alternative open, and if so, it is folly not to work for it with all your might.

    Otto Von Bismarck

    When you want to fool the world, tell the truth.

    I have seen three emperors in their nakedness, and the sight was not inspiring.

    Never believe anything in politics until it has been officially denied.

    Be polite; write diplomatically ;even in a declaration of war one observes the rules of politeness.


    A witty saying proves nothing.

    If God created us in his own image, we have more than reciprocated.

    When he to whom one speaks does not understand, and he who speaks himself does not understand, that is metaphysics.

    I have never made but one prayer to God, a very short one: "O Lord make my enemies ridiculous." And God granted it.

    To succeed in the world it is not enough to be stupid, you must also be well-mannered.

    Doubt is not a pleasant condition, but certainty is absurd.

    It is forbidden to kill; therefore all murderers are punished unless they kill in large numbers and to the sound of trumpets.

    The best way to be boring is to leave nothing out.

    Karl Marx

    Philosophy stands in the same relation to the study of the actual world as masturbation to sexual love.

    All I know is I'm not a Marxist.

    The writer may very well serve a movement of history as its mouthpiece, but he cannot of course create it.

    Monday, July 26, 2004

    Economic Inequity and the "rugged individualist"

    By Nick

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    (above) Portion of Kandinsky's Moscow 1

    "Being born is like being kidnapped. And then sold into slavery." - William Shakespeare

    Whenever politicians acknowledge economic inequity, they are either accused of "class warfare" or of being a "radical leftist" (whatever that means). Both Bush I in '88, and Bush II in 2000 accused their opponents of instigating class antagonism for political gains. Not surprisingly, both Gore and Dukakis responded by toning down the rhetoric. In American politics , any talk of class inequities is considered rude and off-limits.

    I don't find this surprising, as our national history is one of division by class, race, and national origin. Our history is full of fierce domestic conflicts, and yes, dare I say it: they were class conflicts. But our popular conceptions of history push those conflicts into the margins. After all we are an "indivisible" nation. Better for Americans to mostly ignorant of the fact that the preamble of our constitution, "we the people", was written by wealthy slave-owners, in secret.
    In Federalist Paper No. 10, Madison wrote that the new constitution had to be ratified so that the government could control the masses from rebelling against "various and unequal distribution of property." Or as he called it more bluntly, "A rage for paper money, for an abolition of debts, for an equal distribution of property, or for any other improper or wicked project." Without question, this rhetoric was related to a Shays' rebellion, which had just taken place in western Massachusetts.

    I remain unconvinced of the existence of this magical "free market", which is alleged to reward people for hard work and perseverance. For all the teary-eyed rhetoric regarding free-market principles, I see quite a bit of hypocrisy. Our government is always willing to step-in when it is in favor of the rich. After congress passed the fugitive slave act, a slave who was a conservative rugged individualist might ask, "Why make the slave-owner dependent on the government? If he wants his slave back, he should do it himself." Wouldn't the "initiative" that the slave displayed by escaping show a great deal "self-reliance" and "pursuit of his best interest"? However, the government of the time would have answered was no- because it was a matter of property and money, not morality or basic respect for fellow man.

    Our government is generally Laissez -fair when it comes to helping those who are sick, hungry, or homeless. This is undoubtedly related to the myth of "rugged Individualism." I recall historian Charles Beard, who wryly noted that industrial and financial leaders were not rugged enough to make their own way in the world. Indeed, its quite legitimate for big business to be subsidized, nursed, and protected by government intervention. Apparently thats a free market. 

    We have been quite liberal about using our military to intervene with the affairs of sovereign and democratic nations when they had threaten the well-being of our corporations. In 1954, the CIA master-minded the overthrow of the elected president of Guatemala, simply to insure the security of the United Fruit Company's property. In 1973 the U.S. government worked with the IT&T Corporation to overthrow the elected socialist leader of Chile, Salvador Allende. Indeed, Allende did give the foreign corporations, who had long exploited Chile's people and wealth, a tepid welcome. So we intervened. However, someone looses a job because of economic fluctuations, and they are told to be a "rugged invididualist".  

    Let me make one point clear: I'm not advocating socialism. I'm just pointing out hypocrisy. It strikes me (perhaps wrongly) as being pseudo-moral rhetoric which rationalizes injustice. I acknowledge that people are best motivated by their selfish interests. However, the right to have and display one's possessions is not born from a sense of morality.

    The bottom 40 percent of households hold 1 percent of all the wealth in the nation; While the top 1 percent of all households have nearly 40 percent of all the wealth. Does that 1 percent deserve the opprotunities provided by that wealth as much as the bottom 40 percent doesn't?  I was lucky enough to go to a high school which served Austin's top 1%. When I was a 17 year-old pot head, I occasionally stage-managed a 1200 seat auditorium which had a $230,000 sound system, $80,000 of intelligent lights- a setup which was only rivaled by UT's Bass Concert Hall. Our football field had Astroturf, and a jumbotron. It was common gossip to hear that a fellow student had wrecked their Jaguar while they were drunk, 3 days after their 16th birthday, so their parents bought them a Hummer (they gotta keep their druken princess safe). I am eternally grateful to my parents for raising me to see Westlake for what it was: a display of vanity. If there is anything I learned about wealth, its that it often becomes a vehical for vanity. Vanity is the great destroyer of our souls. Not surprisingly, our high school had one of the highest rates of drug-abuse in the nation.   

    Here is the point: I see no moral justification for why our football field had astro turf, when 20 miles away, schools were struggling to pay for text books. People don't endure the inner-city because they are lazy and immoral; rather, they are caught in a perpetual cycle of destruction. People are born into poverty and they go to impoverished schools which don't prepare them for college. The cycle goes round and round, while those who are protecting their interest tell them to show a bit of "rugged individualism".

    Yes, I favor redistributing wealth through progressive taxations. Wealth is both the means to gain more wealth, and more importantly a token which allows people to survive. Its not a "token of worth"; if it was, it would mean that Darryl Strawberry was of more "worth" than Van Gogh, Mozart, Einstein, and Nelson Mandela combined. I do not think that wealth should be redistributed because I'm selfish and want money that isn't mine. My reasons are parrall to what Einstein once explained:

    If one were to take that goal out of out of its religious form and look merely at its purely human side, one might state it perhaps thus: free and responsible development of the individual, so that he may place his powers freely and gladly in the service of all mankind.
    I have never looked upon ease and happiness as ends in themselves - such an ethical basis I call more proper for a herd of swine. The ideals which have lighted me on my way and time after time given me new courage to face life cheerfully, have been Truth, Goodness, and Beauty.

    It is a lofty goal, but at least it strikes me as something worth striving for. That is why I'm a progressive: it might be idealistic, but at least its an attempt to attain something better than what we have now. My readers might judge me to be wrong, and I accept that I may very well be. My purpose in sharing these views was to put my beliefs out into the open, so that they may be inspected under bright lights. I respect those who have differing views, and I pledge to open my mind to them. In the end, I'd rather be wrong and set straight, than to delusionly hold onto false ideas.

    posted by Nick at 7/26/2004 06:11:00 PM |

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    "Netpolitik is a new style of diplomacy that seeks to exploit the powerful capabilities of the Internet to shape politics, culture, values, and personal identity. But unlike Realpolitik — which seeks to advance a nation’s political interests through amoral coercion — Netpolitik traffics in “softer” issues such as moral legitimacy, culturalidentity, societal values, and public perception." - The Rise of Netpolitik

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